Is Our Memorials to the Dead Doing More Harm Than Good?


By: Aliker David Martin

Saturday November 12th, 2016 Kenneth Akena Watmon, 33, a   Kasese Child Protection Specialist, was shot in the stomach and died at Norvik Hospital on Sunday morning.

Next week will mark two years since Akena died and a number of memorial activities like a Pool Tournament, Public Lecture and Prayers have been organized in his memory under the organization Akena Foundation.

For those who lost a loved one and those who lived through it, such a day will forever be ingrained in their memories.

An online poster was sent out inviting the community for the car wash to fundraise to support the activities of Akena Foundation.

A good friend then argued that, “In my opinion, I think friends should allow Akena’s family to forget about the painful death of their son. This kind of Memorial event will keep on reminding the old parents and the wounds in their hearts may not heal.” My friend’s opinion seems unwise but raises fundamental questions on the transition while morning.

Mourning marks a dramatic transition beginning with the trauma of loss and concluding with acceptance of, control over, and separation from a loss (Volkan, 1981; Volkan & Zitl, 1993).

A person can separate from a loss by internalizing the loss to memory and remembering positive aspects of the loss (e.g., fond memories of a dead parent, feelings of self-reliance).

To do this, the person openly admits the loss by repeatedly disclosing his or her thoughts to trusted individuals (Janet, 1925; Lifton, 1973)

Through their designs, memorials represent and commemorate losses (Wolschke-Bulmahn, 2001). In doing so, memorials can help individuals make sense of and recover from losses (Rowlands, 1999).

Being that memorials are public activity, they help entire communities mourn a loss by providing settings for communal ceremonies and rituals (Wasserman, 1998).

So how does memorials facilitate a healing processes?

While memorials may in itself rekindle hatred and anger, more often than not memorials support the healing process in the following ways:

An essential part of healing rests on the ability to tell one’s story to have someone listen and acknowledge pain and suffering.

Stories help people make sense of their experience. Stories can provide a release of emotions and help one connect to others when learning to live with loss.

Studies show that if one is surrounded, for example, by people who refuse to acknowledge some one’s loss, it will be a more traumatic experience than being in a culture that recognizes the loss.

Providing Public Bonds. Research shows that many people develop continuing bonds with individuals who have died.

Often people want to keep a deceased loved one’s memory in their lives. Remembrance events can present opportunities and rituals to help in sustaining those connections.

A person establishes private bonds with the deceased, through internal conversations, private rituals, or holding on to symbolic objects.

Documenting history through Stories. Storytelling does not just benefit victims’ families. Individual stories can help the victim’s community to understand and come to terms with the magnitude of such tragedy to a family or its community. For instance, Articles in the popular press and photograph books claim war memorials like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (VVM) in Washington, D.C., are highly therapeutic for veterans (Grunwald, 1992; Meyer, 1993)

Inspiring healing movements. Stories can also help inspire healing movements for other tragedies. For instance, as a healing process, Akena’s family has establish The Akena Foundation to keep his memory alive.

This simple gesture could inspire others dealing with the loss of a loved one to establish any other healing movements in the community of those dealing with the loss of their loved one.

In conclusion, “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. ― Richard Puz, The Carolinian. From an Irish headstone. “It’s high time, all bereaved are allowed to mourn as they seek justice with love. The pain of death should not make us lose our loving nature because this is who we are.


The 5 New Things in this Year’s Acoli Cultural Festival (ACF 2018)

By: David Martin Aliker

Marcus Garvey a Jamaican-born Black Nationalist and leader of the Pan-Africanism Movement once said, “a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” In an effort to connect with their history, origin and culture; Ker Kwaro Acoli and the Acoli people intend to build on the success of Acoli Cultural Festival 2017.

The three-day event conducted on December 14-16, 2017 brought together various groups from all corners of Acoli to showcase various aspects of their heritage.

It was a colorful display of music, dance, drama, cuisine, dress, tools and artifacts.  The Acoli people will host its second edition of the Acoli cultural festival from December 13th to 15th, 2018.

The theme of ACF 2018 is: “Promoting Acoli heritage for greater productivity” This is a simple, straight but loaded theme.

It hoovers around using heritage to increase output per unit effort of the Acoli people, thus deriving greater dividends from Acoli human effort, skills and knowledge, physical and spiritual attributes, overall taking advantage of “who we are”, “What we have” and “what we do”.

But what is going to be different in ACF 2018 as compared to last years’ ACF 2017?

First and foremost, there is a change in the leadership structure of the Central Organizing Committee (C.O.C). In this years’ ACF 2018 Senior Citizen and Rotarian (PP) Charles Odora Oryem is the Chairman Organizing Committee. The Prime Minister remains the overall Chairman of the Cultural Festival.

The position of Festival Director has also been introduced to guide and coordinate the different events that will be taking place in the 3 days event to ensure quality.

The Program Manager of CEED Benard Loum (Work Horse) has been chosen to serve in this role. Most of you will remember his tireless hard work and attention to detail in last years successful event.

Secondly, a Corporate Affairs Committee (C.A.C) function has also been introduced in this years ACF 2018 organization. The role of this committee is to sell the brand of ACF and mobilize resources and coordinate with other industries and corporate companies.

The Managing Director of Uganda Breweries Mark Ochitti has volunteered his expertise to ensure we have the required resources to make ACF 2018 a success.

Thirdly Authenticity, in last years’ festival many groups improvised from using jerricans as warrior shields to clothes designed as animal skin costumes. This was not in tandem with promoting our culture.

While we expect more exhibitions with a clear demarcation of zones for foods, dances and crafts; the only groups that will perform are those with the right regalia that Acoli use and not improvised options.

Last but not least, ACF 2018 will have Awards to Acoli people who have excelled in the area of this years theme.

An Awards committee has been put in place to identify what to award and eventually who to award for their excellence in special recognition for outstanding performance as an Acoli. This was an idea that was mooted last year but was not possible because of time constraint and resources.

Finally in promoting Acoli contemporary music  industry, the Acoli Music Show now takes place at Kaunda Grounds at a defined location that permits those who want to enjoy it as they sip their beers, spirits and local gin within the background of barbeques to give the day a great sense of life and fun.

Unlike last year, it will be free and not be hosted in Pece Stadium. The tentative location identified is the football field behind Gulu Senior Secondary School


Gulu’s Rising Film Industry

Every generation is remembered by the cause they choose to get involved in and how they change its trajectory by taking action.

Gulu experienced a new phenomenon in yet another movie locally made and offering a voice to its youths on their every day experience.

Nuhood Films,Fesivo Pictures and Signature Films are the brains behind this new sensational movies.

The double  movie premier of Save a Mother and Shame of Puberty were a great inspiration that The President General of Uganda’s oldest Party-Democratic Party Hon. Nobert Mao described it as “one of his most unforgettable nights in 2018.”

At 6:00pm the gates were open and rivellers marched straight to a ready backdrop for a photo moment with their new celebrities.

On screen were slides showcasing the shooting of the movies and complements to local supporting organizations.

The MC of the night Lucky Da Ladies Wine was well dressed and kept rivellers wanting more of his jokes as ladies giggled the night away.

Pre-Event Entertainment

The curtain raiser was Gulu’s youngest Hip Hop sensation Young Kemboy. He did renditions of his own song with great stage movement and gestures to the amazement of guests calling himself “bad boy”

There after were guest performances from Cameroon futuring Daughy Fresh, O’Kreezy,CMB of Valley Curve Records.

The Luo Revolution Dancers brought more life to stage with exceptional dancing strokes showing exceptional skills.

Sherry Princess crowned the day with great vocals and lyrics that rivellers sung to as they entertained themselves.

The Movies

Save a Mother is a story of maternal health challenges that mothers go through during deliveries and how simple things like not having Mama Kits could cost their lives. In the movie Daphine dies because she is too poor to afford mama kits and nurses neglect her.

In the second movie, Akello’s puberty experience of menstration makes her drop out of school because they are so poor to afford Medicare and Sanitary pads.

She laters learns to makes cheap re-useable sanitary pads and resumes school and becomes an agent of change..

In both movies the theme of poverty comes out exceedingly well with the help of great actors with strong characters. This indeed is the every day story of the poor living in our communities.

The  Panel Discussion.

This was the climax of the informative and entertaining event.

Guest were treated to great remarks on the film from Stephen Komakech of Irene Gleason Foundation (IGF); and reputable charity worker and Director of Christian Counseling Fellowship(CCF) Achan Alice. She reiterated the commitment of CCF on their mandate to save mothers and support girls to resume school after giving birth. Her message was “Pregnancy or no pregnancy, no girl should be denied access to education.”

In Hon. Mao’s remarks he castigated government on distributing free condoms and failing to distribute free sanitary pads. He said this is practising inequality. “If men and women are equal, why are there no lorries distributing free sanitary pads like they do for condoms” Mao remarked.

Mao also urged local government leaders to support such initiatives of young people.

The moderator of the panel discussion was Stephen Balmoi who did his job with great experience,class and professionalism asking great interview questions.

Over and above, this experience was a true testimony of the power of the film industry in advocacy and how young people can use their talent to voice out their concerns for their community as active and responsible citizens.

The Smiling Panda Bar and Restaurant remains the best venue to premier movies in northern Uganda and as an entertainment spot. Like the sub title of the movie mentioned, no voice raised is too small.



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